Local News


2 Israelis killed in Tel Aviv stabbing attacks

Posted at 7:19 AM, Nov 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-19 10:19:18-05

A knife-wielding Palestinian man fatally stabbed two Israeli men in a Tel Aviv office building on Thursday before being apprehended, police and witnesses said, an attack that returned a two month-long wave of violence to the Israeli heartland.

Later Thursday, police said six Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack in the West Bank.

Much of the recent Israeli-Palestinian violence has been focused on the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron. Thursday's stabbing attack in the economic hub of Tel Aviv stoked Israeli fears that the violence could still escalate into a full-fledged Palestinian uprising.

Israel has beefed up security across the country in light of the attacks, sending soldiers to patrol cities alongside thousands of police. It has set up checkpoints and concrete barriers in Arab areas of east Jerusalem, where many of the attackers have come from. Still, Israel has failed to halt the seemingly spontaneous attacks.

Police said the latest stabbing took place in southern Tel Aviv, in a shop on the second floor of an expansive office building where a group of Israelis had gathered to hold afternoon prayers.

Shimon Vaknin, a witness, told reporters that a bloodied man stumbled into the room where he prayed with companions in Tel Aviv.

"He was stabbed outside, he was all slashed and bloody. We were in shock. We didn't know what happened and then someone near the door shouted there's a terrorist," Vaknin said. He described a dramatic standoff with the worshippers standing against the closed shop door as the assailant tried to force his way in.

The office building houses stores and offices and had been cordoned off by police after the attack. Israeli media showed footage of a blood-spattered floor littered with forensics gloves.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said one of the dead was in his 20s. Details about the second victim's identity were not immediately known, but he died of his wounds in hospital, she said. A third Israeli was moderately wounded.

Samri said the attacker was apprehended by civilians and identified him as Raed Khalil bin Mahmoud, a 36-year-old Palestinian father of five from the West Bank village of Dura. Earlier, she said the attacker was 24 years old.

It was not immediately clear what he was doing in Tel Aviv, although many Palestinians are granted permits to work in Israel. Israeli Channel 2 TV said the man worked at a nearby restaurant.

In the West Bank attack, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the shooter opened fire on an Israeli car from his vehicle. Samri said the attacker was stopped, although his condition was not immediately clear. The condition of the wounded Israelis was also not immediately clear.

Israeli media reported that the attacker continued driving after opening fire and rammed his car into an oncoming vehicle but police could not immediately confirm that report.

Thursday's violence brings the number of Israelis killed in the wave of violence to 16. At least 82 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire, 52 of them said by Israel to be attackers, the remainder killed in clashes with Israeli troops.

Although Tel Aviv and its surrounding suburbs have seen a number of attacks during the latest wave of violence, much of the recent unrest has been concentrated around Hebron, a city where several hundred Jewish settlers live in heavily guarded enclaves among thousands of Palestinians. Near the city last week, two Israelis, a father and son, were killed in their car on their way to dinner.

The violence erupted in mid-September over tensions surrounding a Jerusalem holy site and quickly spread further into Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The attacks have Israelis on edge. Several politicians have urged licensed gun owners to carry their weapons and there have been several bloody accidents. In one case, an Israeli man stabbed a fellow Jew, thinking his victim was an Arab because of his dark skin, and a security guard shot an Eritrean migrant he thought was an attacker during a bus station shooting last month.

The Palestinians say the violence is rooted in frustration at decades of living under Israeli occupation, while Israel accuses Palestinian leaders of inciting the unrest. This week Israel outlawed an Islamic party, accusing it of fanning the flames and inciting Arab citizens of Israel to violence.